February 03, 2014 14:03 ET

Piecing Together the Migraine Puzzle

Chronic Headache Sufferers: Start a Headache Journal or Migraine Diary for Faster Headache Relief and Individualized Migraine Treatment

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwired - Feb 3, 2014) -  In the U.S., 1 in 4 households have a migraine sufferer. Each migraine is different and varies from person to person. To properly treat these headaches, Chicago allergist and migraine headache expert, Brian Rotskoff, MD, studies every one of his patients to expose all that there is to know about each unique migraine. But Dr. Rotskoff cannot do this on his own. Migraine sufferers are often asked to keep a migraine headache journal in order to determine the best headache treatment.

"Patients must be proactive in their pursuit of migraine headache relief," stresses Dr. Rotskoff. "Proper treatment can be life-changing, but those that are prone to migraines may never be fully cured. For those patients, the diary exercise becomes an education about migraine triggers and allows them to get ahead of debilitating symptoms with the plan we design."

If you suffer from chronic headaches, seeking treatment on your own may have left you exhausted and still feeling that migraine pain. Unfortunately, when it comes to migraines there is no magic button. Successful migraine headache treatment involves a close study of triggers and symptoms before relief can be found.

Migraine or sinus headache? Check your journal
For migraine sufferers, the pain of just one headache can go on and on. Patients become acutely aware that they have a severe headache and reach for a quick fix without considering the factors leading up to onset. Recording the details of a migraine makes it much easier to answer simple questions such as, "How long did your headache last?" or, "What did you eat before your headache started?" Without details, chronic headache diagnosis can take much longer.

Dr. Rotskoff gives these tips for what to document in your migraine or sinus headache journal:

  • Date and time of day the headache started and ended
  • Warning signs (auras) just before the headache started, such as small areas of vision loss, seeing geometric shapes or zigzag lines, tingling/numbness of extremities or face
  • Head/neck pain location(s)
  • Description of the pain, such as throbbing, pressing, piercing, dull
  • Headache pain cycle; did the pain change or evolve over the course of the headache?
  • Other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, sensitivity to light
  • Diet leading up to headache
  • Medications taken prior to headache onset
  • Sleep patterns and hours slept the night before
  • Physical activity or exercise
  • Weather or allergen exposure prior to headache
  • Stress status; important life events, decisions, emotional factors

Finally, Dr. Rotskoff recommends documenting any headache remedies that you tried:

  • Headache medication taken
  • Alternative headache remedies tried
  • Effectiveness of each treatment effort

The perfect pairing
Migraine headaches and sinus headaches don't have to be a conundrum, nor do they have to rule your life. Self-monitoring, paired with the support of an experienced headache specialist, will lead to successful headache prevention and remedies.

"I wish I could see each patient once and figure out how to treat their migraine," says Dr. Rotskoff. "The benefit of the headache journal is long-term insight to better diagnose the type of headache. Even the headache sufferer can be surprised by the frequency and patterns of their headache when they see it in writing."

If you suffer from migraine headaches, don't wait to start a migraine headache journal. Keeping track of your severe headaches before seeing Dr. Rotskoff at Clarity Allergy Center in Chicago will only bring you faster relief. 

Contact Information

  • Clarity Allergy Center
    Brian Rotskoff, MD
    Medical Director

    Office Locations
    4801 W. Peterson Avenue, Suite #306
    North Chicago, IL 60646

    3000 N. Halsted Street, Suite #611
    Chicago, IL 60657

    125 S. Wilke Road, Suite #100
    Arlington Heights, IL 60005